Art, architecture & design from the quarries of the Apuan Alps
text and ph. Nicola Gnesi
For those like me born in the historic Versilia in the last century, the word Henraux always buzzed around our ears as something familiar. Indeed, many of our generation have a relative or friend who has or had in some way something to do with this company. “My granddad worked for Henraux…” is often heard. Or more precisely: “at Errò”. Maybe there are still people who do not know how it is written but there isn’t one Versiliese who does not know the name of this large company who had 700 employees on its payroll in the sixties. Moreover, as children, my friends and I, used to stop and look at Mount Altissimo from the beach as it soared high in the Apuan Alps mountain chain at about 1,600m. We were certain that its right-hand side, white, as the whitest snow, was a glacier. Every day we used to look at that huge spot of a purest white and ask ourselves how could there still be snow in summer. Instead they were the Henraux quarries of Cervaiole from where the purest Bianco Statuario is still being extracted and which has been so important in the history of art and architecture. You see, when you grow up under the shadow of mountains like these, you understand why you cannot but consider this company as part and parcel of the history of a territory, consider it a little bit yours. First of all, the Henraux quarries mean art: its white gashes have been loved by the great masters, the first being Michelangelo who in 1517 discovered the huge wealth of Monte Altissimo, then Rodin at the end of the 19th century while, just to mention a few, in the recent 1960s Moore, Harp, Mirò, Noguchi, Papa, Pomodoro arrived. It is said that Henry Moore wanted fresh ricotta from local farmers as soon as he reached the quarry. Next, there is its contribution to architecture: the church square of the Basilica of St. Peter’s is made from marble from Monte Altissimo as are the mosques of Mecca and Abu Dhabi, as though this white marble is able to bring peace among religions. Today the company’s core business still has to do with architecture, art and design and precisely modern art. For this latter, a showroom has been recovered at the Querceta headquarters only three kilometres away from the Forte dei Marmi jetty. Work on this dream-like showroom started a year ago and was designed by “Archea Associati”, a world-famous studio run by professor and archistar Marco Casamonti. The heart and soul of all these art-linked innovations is Paolo Carli, the company’s president since 2003. He has been a visionary: in 2012 he created the Henraux Foundation and founded the “Erminio Cidonio Sculpture Award” which has uncovered talents now indisputable names on the art scene in the last few years. Today it is a leading company with an unmatched technical department and know-how. It will be two centuries old in 2021. And if the company and foundation look towards the future, walking along the Cervaiole is like still being in the sixties.
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